Chone Figgins was a victim of circumstance. With the ability to field multiple positions, get on base, bat .300 and swipe 40 bags, he was one of the most talented players in the game. And when he got to Seattle, everything was working against him.
He had to switch positions, he got bumped down in the order and, in the end, no one believed in him. Ultimately, that's why he didn't succeed here.
At least, that's what he'd tell you.
Chone Figgins is in the news again, spending his second Spring Training in a row as a non-roster invite just trying to make a major league club. This year, it's with the Dodgers as he tries to fill the void at second base. With grumblings that Alex Guerrero—the Cuban the organization spent $28 million on—isn't ready for the Majors, some have started to look to Figgins as a guy who could potentially fill what stands as the team's biggest hole.
The Los Angeles Times' Bill Dwyre has an extended profile on Figgins in today's paper, and in the piece, Figgins shared his thoughts on his time here in Seattle.
"It kind of says it all," he said, "when you have just signed a $38-million contract [four years] and they pinch-hit for you in the fourth game."
He was happy to elaborate.
"I was in Seattle for three years," he said, "but it feels like it was just yesterday that I left the Angels."
On reading this, I had to double-check it. I needed context.
It was actually Figgins' sixth game with the Mariners. It was an April 10th game against the Rangers, down in Arlington. I don't want to spoil it without giving you the full effect. So here are the highlights from that game. Most of you will remember it well.
Did you catch it? Yes, it was Chone Figgins who Ken Griffey, Jr. came off the bench for.
Four years later, Chone Figgins is still upset about being pinch-hit for by one of the best outfielders of all time. He was pinch-hit for, and it worked—and it resulted in one of the Mariners' most thrilling wins in what was a horrid season.
People still look back on the Chone Figgins signing and try to figure out what went wrong. Was it his unique skill-set—the no-power, high-strikeout combination—that led to a quick decline? Was his failure in Seattle a mark against sabermetric thinking?
No, it was just Chone Figgins.
Figgins believed, from early on it seems, that greater powers were working against him. He believed succeeding in Seattle was somehow out of his control, that his failures here weren't his fault.
You will never, ever find a great athlete who doesn't believe the outcome is always in his (or her) control. It's why most of the greats are egotistical maniacs—and I mean that in the best way possible. Chone Figgins, obviously, was not one of the greats.
It's hard to believe how Chone Figgins got as far as he did in baseball with the attitude he has. And it's even more unfathomable that, after being humbled in Seattle, he still has it.